Friday, October 12, 2018

Old Shames or New Shames Which is it Really?

RPGNET where they have this habit of getting things completely wrong all the time, recently flubbed up again. The thread title is "The Old Shames of D&D", but a lot of the things they mention were not part of Old/Original D&D which started in 1974. Most of the things they mention were not part of the original three little brown books. So the title should have been "The New Shames of AD&D and later."

Lets look at a few of them. Note> Quotes are in Italics.

Drow, not part of OD&D so I never was exposed to that race, but what they said about them is this, "only dark-skinned elves are insane and evil, with sexually provocative imagery on top" which is so wrong. Our elves are usually neutral and somewhat detached from things due to being almost immortal.

Gully Dwarves, again not part of OD&D, these "Gully dwarves are a one-note gag poking fun at the intellectually handicapped. That's literally all they are; they exist to be a race of morons you can point your finger at and laugh about because they're so stupid." What idiot came up with that! Why would you put anything like that in your game. For anyone to be intellectually handicapped is not funny, it is sad, very, very sad and one of the greatest of human tragedies.

Vistani, again not part of OD&D, "this is a race whose problematic elements are probably more obvious to European D&D fans than American ones, because the big issue of anti-Roma is more rooted there. In summary, Vistani are a race literally built around the Horror Movie Gypsy archetype; morally ambiguous "gypsies" who are portrayed as so inherently mystical that being half-vistani is treated as making you as inhuman as being half-elf or half-orc - indeed, the half-breed version is the only way one is even allowed to play a character remotely tied to them."

Let's pause here to state that roleplaying games owe a lot to archetypes, ever hear that word before. Archetypes/Stereotypes/Tropes are things that resonate with people because there is a lot of truth to them. Not the whole truth, but partly true. Writers make use of this all the time and good writers make skillful use of them. Same with roleplayers, good ones make skillful use of these things.

*Gypsies aka Roma aka Travelers and their stereotype exists because it is partially true, not the whole truth, but not completely untrue either. But many people when they roleplay, choose not to run things btb(i.e. use the stereotype as is) and instead turn the stereotype upside down. Obviously, this never occurs to many, but it takes things to a new level and makes the old, new again. I really wish that "Gypsy" was a not a bad word. Why? Because some words look beautiful in print and sound beautiful when spoken and I always hate it when we are robbed of beautiful words. A lot of bad words look and sound bad, but Gypsy is not one of them.

*No one ever takes the time to look at the reasons behind stereotypes and the historical forces that created them. For instance, if no one will sell to you or will only sell to you at twice the going price, you may have to steal to live. Etc, Etc, Etc.

People who run these premade settings are captive to the btb mentallity. Where those who DIY are not, when you DIY you are freed from using tired old stereotypes. Vikings, Cowboys, Romans, and so on are all tired old stereotypes. DIY and be free of them.

But let's continue,

Aperusa, again not part of OD&D, "An entire culture of faithless, shifty, flamboyant, lying, swindling, scavenging, cowardly rogues... in other words, an entire culture based on the worst anti-Roma stereotypes, but presented IN SPACE!" Free yourself from this pre-canned stuff.

Gypsy Kits, again not part of OD&D, and again more of the same from above.

"Historical Fantasy Cultures", again not part of OD&D except in very generic fantasy medieval way, "but even I can't help but notice that the more direct an attempt at "historical fantasy" D&D tended to do, the worse it tended to be." Again free yourself from pre-canned settings, DIY and take references and do something new with them, do something that speaks to you.

The next thing cites evil cultures and evil races as racist. Again not part of OD&D, which was Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic. Lawful was not Good and Chaotic was not Evil. Those things came later. In OD&D "sentient monsters" were not all evil all the time btb and to be killed on sight no matter what. In OD&D, they could be talked to and dealt with and the object was not killing things. All of that was not hardwired into OD&D. The whole murderhobo thing was not the original mode of play for adults, that came later. Whether or not it is racist, to have evil races and cultures is not germane if you don't do that in your campaign. If they have free-will, then they are not universally evil. If they don't have free will what is the point. What fun is it if every encounter is combat and nothing else. Sounds very boring to me.

Oh let me interject this, "paladins and baby orcs" if you go there that is on you, the game itself does not take you there, that is a DM/players problem not a game problem. My players, including the paladins, would not kill baby orcs if I put them in the game, you know why? Because my players don't have a goal of exterminating races. Nothing in OD&D tells you to slit the throats of sleeping orcs. If your players do that, that is on them.

A point is made about "giant fantasy world-atlases" not having non-demihumans nations, just lawless zones where monsters run wild. Again free yourself from pre-canned settings and DIY and have monster nations, and trade with them. Have monster bandits, just like there are human bandits. Do something original with your dungeon. Maybe you free those poor monsters enslaved by the lich.

That just gets me through page one of 63 pages at RPGNET. I can see your chin drop to find out this stuff goes on for 63 pages (as of today).

Next up is Pathfinder, which I know nothing about, is said to have "sand and jungle orcs," again not part of OD&D, really that is the best you could come up with for Pathfinder? I haven't seen it so I can only take their word that the Pathfinder rules actually say that.

"Racial maximums for stats and class levels in and gender-based maximums for strength." Again not part of OD&D. Not part of Old D&D, these things came later.

Then they get into what they call "rape monsters" things like nixies and dryads. I will grant you that both of those are in OD&D, but I don't know anyone that ever put them in the game or ever used them as an encounter. I also don't know anyone who ever had rape occur in the game. I suppose there are people that do that, but in my experience we are there to have fun, nothing about rape is fun so it is not part of the game for us

Slavery, while not explicitly part of OD&D, it is part of human history and occurred in virtually every group throughout history and is part of many cultures in the world even today. So yes, many of us have slavery in the game. Our players will typically try to free any slaves they encounter by one means or another and slavers are always the bad guys.

I could go on for a few thousand more words, but fortunately for you I will not. The bottom line for me is this. One is that almost none of this was part of OD&D, so it is not OLD SHAMES it is really mostly NEW SHAMES. Two, the whole 63 page thread was because people are enslaved to btb. If book says it, then for them it is canon. Free yourself from that, at your table you decide what is canon.

My solution, free yourself from the btb fanaticism and put down the pre-built settings and DIY. If you go through the whole thread some of it is just silly SJW nonsense the things they complain about, but other things are legit. So DIY and then anything that you personally think is problematic you can jettison. Are all of your bad guys dark skinned? That's not on the game, that's on you. What's in the rulebook doesn't really matter, because you can change it. So step up and make the game your own and DIY.

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